House Speaker John Boehner said Monday that getting the GOP-controlled House to agree to raising the U.S. debt ceiling will only come with a bipartisan deal to make cost-saving changes to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, farm programs and government pensions.
Before becoming speaker in 2011, Boehner said, he’d watched leaders of both parties delay a long-term solution to a baby-boom-fueled benefit crisis.
“I made up my mind that we weren’t going to kick the can down the road any more,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told a Boise lunch crowd at a fundraiser for Idaho’s 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson. “We’re not going to inflict all of this pain and suffering on our kids and our grandkids.”
The government will reach its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit this fall. Boehner rejected calls from some quarters to let the government shut down rather than agree to a compromise with President Obama and the Democratic Senate.
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“There is no reason for the government to run out of money,” Boehner said. “Our goal here is to stop Obamacare. Our goal here is to cut spending.”
Boehner said GOP control of the House has forced Democrats to agree to three straight years of lower discretionary spending, which accounts for about one-third of the federal budget, savings that will reach $2.5 trillion over 10 years.
“Now, it’s time to deal with the mandatory side,” Boehner said, winning applause from a crowd of 430 at the Boise Centre on The Grove. “I’ve made it clear that we’re not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.
“The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with. But I’ll say this: It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”
Recalling the 2011 battle over raising the federal debt ceiling, Boehner recalled negotiations that spooked financial markets, prompted Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. credit rating and angered ordinary Americans. He warned the audience to expect more of the same.
“I wish I could tell you it was going to be pretty and polite, and it would all be finished a month before we’d ever get to the debt ceiling. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way,” Boehner said. “If this were easy to do, somebody over the last 20 or 30 years would have gotten it done. We’re going to do it this fall.”
Boehner also said Congress will tackle immigration and tax reform in the name of bettering the economy.
Boehner was in Boise on the 22nd day of a 35-day cross-country bus tour to help Republican lawmakers running for re-election. Since becoming speaker in 2011, he has raised more than $110 million for GOP candidates through his political committees, contributions solicited on behalf of the National Republican Campaign Committee and appearances at events like Simpson’s.
Simpson raised more than $95,000 for his 2014 primary race at the $50 lunch and an earlier round table drawing 36 high-dollar contributors, said campaign manager Brody Aston. Gov. Butch Otter also spoke, introducing Simpson.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Simpson said of his challenge from Idaho Falls lawyer Brian Smith in the May Republican primary. Simpson thanked 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador for attending, even though Labrador is remaining neutral.
As Boehner took the stage, he embraced Simpson and called his sometime golfing partner “my good friend and buddy.”
Said Boehner: “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that he is re-elected.”